Fallen Angel (Critical Response to the Stone Angel Symbolism Prompt)

GIPHY. “Rainfall Stone Angel GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY.” GIPHY, GIPHY, 11 Apr. 2018, giphy.com/gifs/rainfall-stone-angel-ukQKU80KKriik.

Prompt: A symbol is an object, action, or event that represents something or that creates a range of associations beyond itself… Write an essay analyzing how that symbol functions in the work and what it reveals about the characters or themes of the work as a whole. 

The instant connotation of Angels is heavenly imagery. We see white wings and divine beauty, or chubby children with perfect cheeks. Visions of purity, of altruistic souls without fault, are absent from the titular statue of the Stone Angel. Instead, an icon of sin is presented. In the novel, Hagar Shipley reflects back on her life, and how her pride harmed her. The author, Margaret Laurence, uses a stature of an Angel to symbolize how pride is formed for an individual, then consumes every aspect of their existence, forcing them to path of self-destruction.

The Angel is first introduced to the audience as a grave marker for Hagar’s mother, purchased by her father. Hagar makes her father’s, Jason Currie’s, true motives clear, “My mother’s angel that my father bought in pride.” Jason ignored the tragedy of death in order to present wealth to his town. The Angel also arrives sightless, for some careless sculptor forgot to carve her eyes. Just as the statue is carved blind, Hagar is carved proud by her father. Both were sculpted to suit their creators goals, and not their own. Therefore, her ultimate fault is not of her creation. Hagar comes to regard the Angel as a sign for her father’s dynasty, respecting it as she does him, and caring not for the woman underneath it.  Instead of honouring her dead mother, the Angel’s true purpose is diverted to the sin of pride. Laurence uses an angel to symbolize pride, as traditionally Angels can be passed down. A familial guardian Angel is recognized for generations, and used to instill positive traits. This Angel is the Currie family’s demon, destined to haunt them for eons. Much like the unyielding nature of pride, the stone tat forms the Angel will never bend, only break. A heavenly image is set as representative of one of the seven tenants of sin. This juxtaposition, and others, exists throughout the novel, as comforting images are subverted into cautionary tales. It is here that Laurence shows Hagar beginning to harden with her pride, gradually taking on the stone nature of this paradoxical statue.

Hagar becomes increasingly associated with the Angel; it is no longer being a symbol of her father’s dynasty, but of Hagar’s hardened, proud nature. Upon her son’s death Hagar remarks, “I was transformed into stone and never wept at all.” Too proud to show her true emotions to the other mourners for her child, she compares herself to rock. Even if it is an unconscious realization, Hagar knows she has fully embraced the Angel and all it symbolizes. Her son, John, died joy-riding with a woman he was dating to spite his mother, much in the way that Hagar married to spite her father. Her pride has swallowed the life of another in her life.  Next to the statue, lie all the headstones of her loved ones, many she cut out of her life due a slight or a damage to her ego. Just as the Angel stands atop a grave, so has Hagar’s pride led her to the death of those she loves. “Oh, my lost men!”, she cries in thinking of all of her dead, but unable to protect them from the Angel hovering above them, a symbol of her nature. The statue and Hagar are now linked, much like Hagar’s traits are linked to her. Throughout the novel, the association grows, with Hagar being called blind, stony, and hardened. Neither will separate until the end, with the Angel’s stone eroding, and Hagar’s health deteriorating. Laurence is once again adding to her paradox. As shown through a sinful Angel, first the accidental education of pride to a young girl, and now a mother’s refusal to cry over her child’d death. Both are acts that should be morally pure, learning and mourning, but are subsequently tainted. With this final consummation of pride into her soul, Hagar and the Angel are set to a course of self-destruction.

As she nears her death, Hagar envisions the home of the Angel once more. She describes the lack of attention it has received over the years, and acknowledges it’s oncoming fate, “Someday she’ll topple entirely, and no one will bother to set her upright again.” Both the Angel and Hagar will fall, forgotten and alone, and surrounded by the dead. Throughout the book, Laurence places the Angel with imagery of death. She stands in a graveyard, Hagar becomes her when her son dies, and she is made to mark the death of Hagar’s mother. All of this imagery is foreshadowing in place to alert the reader of Hagar’s death. Specifically, her death at the hands of pride. It is Hagar’s pride that leads her to escape her caregivers, and collapsing in the wild; she survives only a few days more, until it is implied at the hospital that she meets her end. Much like how the Angel’s on stony weight is dragging her into the earth, Hagar’s own sin is as well.

Margaret Laurence subverts traditional angelic imagery to give physical presence to her protagonist’s sin. She presents the formation, adoption, and destruction path of the sin of pride through the sculpting, eroding, and toppling of a stone Angel figure. Using an inanimate object, Hagar’s arc is traced in stone. In her reversal, Laurence creates a warning of the nature of pride, and the death and alienation it leads to.

Gif: GIPHY. “Rainfall Stone Angel GIF – Find & Share on GIPHY.” GIPHY, GIPHY, 11 Apr. 2018, giphy.com/gifs/rainfall-stone-angel-ukQKU80KKriik.

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5 thoughts on “Fallen Angel (Critical Response to the Stone Angel Symbolism Prompt)

  1. Dear Claire,

    Let me first say that I still can feel the emotional impact that your quotation presentation had on the entire class. What I have learnt from you is that when you are passionate about something, you are not going to be afraid to express yourself – which is such an amazing trait to have in a person.

    Getting to the actual essay, you were able to show the progression of the stone angel symbol quite well and how Hagar’s pride is what, ultimately, pushed her away from others. When you mentioned that the stone angel will “not bend” but “only break”, it perfectly describes Hagar’s condition in how she would rather be dead than have to change her uncompromising nature. Also how the angel is the “demon” of the Currie family is such a contradictory idea, and it is amazing to see how one can be so blinded that they are unable to see reality. The “mean” aspect of all of your paragraphs was well developed; it was easy to see the gradual deterioration that the statue was forced to endure. It truly struck me when you described how Margaret Laurence gave “physical presence to her protagonists sin” as it is precisely what the stone angel is used to embody.

    In terms of improvement, I would say that you could have added more to your introductory and conclusion paragraphs as they did seem a little lacking. This would help give a solid start and end to your essay when someone is reading through it. There were a few minor GUMPS that I found in the first body paragraph which could easily be fixed by just giving it a quick read-through.

    Overall, it is great to have you as a part of our class, and I appreciate the dedication you can give to something when you set your mind on it – such as this piece.

  2. Thank you Abhay!

    My biggest area to work on is critical essays. Your advice is so valuable to me, as I struggle to break from the strict guidelines imposed in -1 English. Also, I am so glad you liked the points I made, as I was worried that I wasn’t making sense. Thank you again and again for looking at this essay; I really trust your writing talent.



  3. Dearest Claire,

    Thank you for bringing back the idea of the “true” imagery of angels and comparing it to its usage in The Stone Angel; having analyzed this book so much it is easy to forget that the usage of the statue is very different from usual settings. I think the examples you used were very effective with the connection with pride; you were able to use both the imagery of the stature and her life so well! It was especially cool when you brought this idea of it being dynamic and how it moves from being a sign of “Currie” to a sign of “Hagar” as she does live as a Shipley most of her life her pride is being derived from places other than the class of her birth. You brought were able to merge the ideas presented in class as well as your own very well and your understanding of the novel was evident.

    In terms of improvement, I would agree with Abhay and would have liked more in your introduction and conclusion. What I think you could do, in my opinion of course, is if go a bit more in-depth with the traditional imagery of an angel and then how Laurence incorporates some elements while using some that are far from it.

    You have amazing ideas and are able to get them across well! Great work, looking forward to more!


  4. My dearest Nimrat,

    Thank you for taking the time to read this! Like I said to Abhay, I struggle the most with critical essays, and any feedback is incredibly valuable. Thank you for giving me specific things to improve on my opening and conclusion, I love the idea of delving more into the traditional nature of Angels that eventually gets corrupted by the novel.



  5. Hey Claire!!

    I’ve always been inspired by your writings, even last year in creative writing class, I would quite often read through you poems and other creative writing pieces which were truly amazing! After reading this essay, I know now that creative writing pieces are just one aspect of you incredible talent, your critical essays are very insightful as well!!! As I was reading through, I realized we have the exact same essay, just perspectives through different lenses! I loved how you presented the revoked idea of angels association with divinity and presented this monument as an ‘icon of sin’. That was a brilliant and appropriate connection as it accurately displays the deteriorating factor of Hagar Shipley. Another striking strength presented in this essay was the unbreaking flow and development from initially, then, and finally. The character analysis of Hagar was strongly evident in your essay and you brought out the smallest of details that would have normal been hard to identify. As I was writing my essay, I was cautious of adding ‘basic’ and ‘excepted’ evidence as the stone angel symbol is an obvious factor in the novel. However, you did an excellent job in bringing out profound understanding of the symbol through deeper analysis and understanding of what the stone angel symbolized. Well done Claire!!!!!

    As for improvements, all I have to say is to spend more time on you intro and conclusion. I loved how you weaved in your creative voice into the opening and closing paragraphs, don’t lose that, just be aware of what needs to be addressed in those paragraphs. Maybe a clearly stated thesis would be a good place to start. I hope that made sense!!!

    Over all, Claire, your writing is breathtaking and this essay was an accurate demonstration of you incredible skill! Keep up the good work and I’m looking forward to read more!!

    Lots of love,

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